|Suzanne C. Ouellette||
Already July 2nd! How did we get to thinking about July 4th barbecues so quickly? Didn't we just celebrate Memorial Day? I am glad I have these small flower sketches to remind me of the early days of summer. Here is my only but most beautiful pale pink poppy for the summer of 2014. The oil painting on carton measures a mere 6" x 8".
This summer, we signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share with the wonderful Sol Flower Farm. Depicted in the very small (5" x 6") oil painting on carton is a radish from this week's box of vegetable goodies. The radish's destiny was to be part of my favorite hors d'oeuvres -- radishes over herb butter on slices of dark bread and sprinkled with salt (very French). But before that, I painted it along with an old copper pot.
By Special Guest Blogger, Ula
Hey, Hey, Hey (that's barking in human speak). An important event in the studio makes me want to write again. Here I am, Ula, with my second blog for Suzanne's website.
Finally, she did it! Suzanne painted my portrait. Her friends have been asking her since forever when she was going to paint me. She always responded with a shrug and a "not yet." I never got it. I knew she liked looking at me; and I was always giving her that sideways glance from my special big eyes, tilting my head while I lifted my ears, twirling my beautiful fluffy tail, and working what my breeder called my "smile gene." But no, she just kept on painting those silver bowls and radishes and humans.
So, here is the story. One day last week, she finished a still life painting and began a landscape sketch. We would be outside for the next couple of days. That can get really boring for me. Suzanne takes me with her but she insists on putting me on my leash and securing it to a stake in the ground. She explains that when she paints, she "goes somewhere else" and she can't keep an eye on me to make sure I stay close. So, there I am, stuck to wander in a very small space. The only exciting part is when my tether gets tangled around the legs of Suzanne's easel and she shrieks and jumps as the palette with all the paints and other potions begins to move. But this day, just as we were getting settled in, the weather changed and it began to rain. Suzanne quickly gathered up me and the painting stuff. Back in the studio we were.
She was disappointed. She really wanted to try out some Cezanne idea with the lake sketch. Instead, she turned to a new still life arrangement. I could tell it wasn't working . She was fussing too much with objects and I heard her say something like "Oh, it's time, I really need to paint somebody." And then, and then, she gave me that look. Hey, Hey, Hey, I felt so excited. I really wanted to jump up on my back legs with front paws waving to walk towards her; but I knew I should stay just where I was, still and quiet on my pillow. She kept looking at me, from near and far, and she started feeling the shape of my head and taking all kinds of photographs of me. I thought: Could this be it? It was, she was doing my portrait. Hey, Hey, Hey, how cool was this.
She worked hard. She looked at me and looked at me, sometimes really up close; and kept feeling my head (I never saw her do that with a human sitter, by the way). She worked with her oil paint and that carton paper that she loves so much. She smiled a lot and even did some singing and dance steps every once in a while. I was a very very good model. And, although I think I am cuter than this, I like the portrait she made. Hey, Hey, Hey, check it out. Let me know what you think.
Friends who aren't able to make the trip to Salisbury asked if they could see some of paintings in the exhibition. So, I prepared this slide show of paintings. Images are from my own studio shots (i.e., not professional shots). Hope you enjoy.
Planning and preparing for a trip can be a great part of the travel fun. That was certainly true today. To get myself in the Moroccan mood, I stopped by the Taymour Grahne Gallery on Hudson Street in Manhattan to see their exhibition of various works by Hassan Hajjaj, the Moroccan born and London based artist. His large photographs of "Kesh Angels," beautiful Moroccan women in Marrakesh, are full of life and captivating. The women are wearing what appear to be traditional garb, veils and robes; and they are also atop motorcycles, many with dark sunglasses, and looking very chic, smart, strong, and hip in bright colors and patterns. One wants to get to know these women. They certainly support my wanting to go to Morocco for the textiles and color. As you see in the two images below, the photographs are placed in beautifully constructed frames that form a surround filled with objects of popular culture, consumerism, and everyday food stuff (examples are soda cans and Moroccan spam tins). Hassan Hajjaj has been called a Moroccan Andy Warhol. His photographs have the sheen of fancy fashion shoots but raise important questions about the meeting of east and west, traditional and modern, the street and culture.
Hajjaj's work can also provide a psychological punch. Most striking for me was his collection of small prints on cardboard. Each was only 13" by 11," very small in comparison to the central exhibition photographs that had typical dimensions of 4 and 5 feet. Again we have photographs of women on motorcycles, but these are photographs of dolls clothed and arranged by the artist, with his props. in his special way. The photos are printed on the bottoms of coca cola cartons with the impressions left by the cans providing an intriguing quilted background for the dolls.
Hajjaj is also famous for his installations. Many of these like the one on the left are lounges meant for lounging. They contain the furniture and decorative pieces he has made from everyday recycled objects. For example, the banquette shown here is made from upside down plastic cartons commonly used to carry soda cans. Again, there is a mixing of traditional and modern.
Can't wait to get to Morocco to find the spaces that inspired this one and everything else in this gallery show.
There are many rituals connected with finishing a painting. It begins with the decision that the painting is indeed done. For that, there is a lot of looking at the painting: as is on the easel, on various walls in the studio, from a seated position and a standing position, in different kinds of light, in reverse form in the mirror, upside down. All of this activity is usually accompanied by a large cup of coffee or tea.
Once the "It's done" decision is made, there is the ritual of where to hang the painting in the studio while it dries. Hanging takes a number of tries with hammer and nails and the inevitable moving around of pieces that are already on the wall. It is so nice to see the new painting off the easel and in a temporary but suitable location with friends.
Then, there is the ritual of clean up. I like to start from scratch when I begin a new painting. That means all signs of the just finished painting are removed. All of my brushes are not only thoroughly cleaned but put back in their official holders. Every bit of paint is scraped off the palette so I can start with fresh color. The easel and other furniture are put in a corner.
When the painting I have just finished includes fruits, vegetables, and/or flowers, if that painting has taken more than a few days, there is one more very special ritual step. I gather together all of the fruits, vegetables, and flowers that are looking not quite as wonderful as they did when we first began the work. They often have bruises, signs of sagging and withering, a deadening of color, and a scent that is a little too strong. I put them all in a paper bag and, on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday, I drop them off at the Union Square Market on my way home from the studio. The Market has a special area for composting with large containers for deposits. It feels just right as I drop into the composting bin those many beloved apples, pears, cabbages, and other objects that I got to know so well. I can't imagine just throwing them away in the ordinary trash. They stay alive as they go into the making of compost or "black gold" that will help other vegetables, fruits, and flowers thrive. As compost, those still life objects have a life beyond my painting. I like that. As Ula and I walk the rest of our way home, we feel like we've done good work.
Soon after you enter the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea, you find yourself in total darkness. You hear the sounds from the film of the jazz session that you are there to see, but you have no sense of where to walk. It is like being underwater in a pitch black sea. Then, your eyes adjust. You start to make out forms that look like walls and you spot a corner you need go around. Once in the viewing room, it is still dark but a large movie screen helps you see and not step on the bodies on the floor. You join them and you are part of a wonderful treat. This exhibition consists of a film by Stan Douglas. It is his creation of a 70s era jazz jam session, set in his recast of the once famous recording space in midtown Manhattan known as the "Church," with ten wonderful musicians in period dress. All of the instrumentalists are terrific, but the four drummers are the snarliest and happiest. The film lasts for 6 hours. You probably won't stay for all of that, but you will stay longer than you might have originally planned. Jazz musicians say they go to some special other place when they play. This film helps take you with them.
The David Zwirner Gallery is at 533 West 19th Street. The film is there for viewing (it is fine to pick it up at any point)
through February 22.
And it was! It certainly was.
I try to spend the major part of each day in the painting studio. Not enough painting time sends me into a real funk. If I can't be painting, whatever I am doing better be good. Yesterday's theatre trip was. Yesterday's performance of the Shakespeare's Globe production of Twelfth Night did only great things for my mood.
Mark Rylance and all the other wonderful actors, the amazing words that I heard more clearly than I ever had, the set, the pre-show in which actors put on their costumes, the music, the lighting, the curtain call were brilliant. And, of course, the candles. When you enter the theatre, you instantly smell the beeswax from the burning candle chandeliers over the stage. The smell is warm and inviting. Something in this production for every one of the senses. It was Kandinsky's ideal of the Gesamtkunstwerk, the total work of art. I was not so far from painting after all.
There is a wonderful exhibition of small, very small, pieces of art at the Dodge Gallery. For this show, the painter, Chuck Webster, selected and brought together 53 works and 41 named artists. The connections between the pieces are not instantly obvious, but just spend a little time looking at them and you will generate all sorts of links. I have become accustomed to gallery spaces hung only with huge paintings. There is something very special, restful, and intriguing about being in space where I had to look very up close at each of the pieces displayed. One seems no bigger than one square inch. Magic happens here.
The Dodge Gallery is at 15 Rivington Street in New York City. The show The Age of Small Things is there through February 23, 2014.